U.S. cuts Canadian beef some slack; Ban eased, but not for cattle

OTTAWA, (Aug. 9, 2003) — Three months after a single cow diagnosed with mad cow disease instantly brought their industry to a standstill, beef farmers and haulers got some long-awaited good news as the U.S. announced it would start phasing out the devastating ban on Canadian beef exports.

The plan, announced yesterday afternoon by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, will open the U.S. border only to meat considered at low risk of carrying bovine spongiform encephalopathy – or more commonly referred to as mad cow. However, that still rules out allowing shipments of live cattle.

The ban on Canadian beef and cattle, imposed in May by the U.S. and 35 other countries, has devastated the $8 billion industry – half of which is based on exports to the U.S. About 4,200 lost jobs have been attributed to the ban, and it’s said to be costing industry about $11 million in exports a day. That number nearly triples when related industries like trucking and slaughterhouses are included.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief told the Canadian Press that yesterday’s announcement is a good first step to repairing the industry, but there’s still a long way to go before all beef products and live cattle are once again allowed to cross the U.S. border.
He said it’s expected the U.S. will soon allow about half of Canada’s beef exports to resume – hopefully beginning by month’s end.

Products to get the green light for export into the U.S. include: boneless meat from cattle under the age of 30 months; boneless meat from sheep and goats under the age of 12 months; veal from calves 36 weeks or younger; fresh or frozen cattle liver; pet foods; vaccines for non-ruminant animals; and meat from wild ruminants, such as elk, for personal use.

While cattle haulers are still waiting for the ban on live animals to be lifted, they too received some encouraging news when Agriculture Secretary Veneman also pledged to begin working on a “rule-making process,” which would establish new guidelines to resume the import of live cattle under the age of 30 months. However, there is no timetable for this next step in the phase-out of the ban.

Yesterday’s decision came after Japanese and American officials were said to have reached an agreement on an inspection system that will allow continuing American beef exports to Japan, the largest U.S. importer of the product. The U.S. must set up a system that will ensure that no Canadian beef going through the U.S. winds up in Japan. The Japanese’s threats to ban U.S. beef if that country reopened its border to Canadian shipments has been regarded by officials as the major stumbling block to getting the ban lifted.

— with files from CP

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